Category Archives: public transportation

Transit Coordination- how the Europeans do it

This is my proposal for a Ph D Dissertation, some day….

The regulatory, political and organizational structure of effective metropolitan public transit in multi-operator multi-jurisdictional metropolitan areas: can effective models in Western Europe be applied in the United States and elsewhere?

Research Scope and Objectives
Metropolitan areas, both large and small, are typically composed of dozens or even hundreds of small, medium and large cities surrounding one or two major cities. In addition, in many areas of the world, the growth of metropolitan regions has spilled out beyond traditional boundaries. This phenomenon has been noted in the United States for at least 50 years (see, e.g., Gottman, 1961) and has also spread to regions in Europe (see, e.g., Taylor and Pain, 2006) and elsewhere in the world (Florida et al., 2007, identifying some 40 megaregions world-wide). Serving this complex political morass are often: 1) the major city’s public transit system; 2) inter-regional transit operator(s); 3) intraregional (cross-county) public transit operator(s) which are managed by either the major city or other government levels or special districts; and 4) dozens of local bus operators serving the smaller cities at the periphery of the metropolitan area. The worst-case scenario is that each transit agency sets its own fares, plans its own routes, determines its own schedules and independently performs long-range planning for future service extensions. How to organize all of these players into an effective seamless regional transit system? Good models can be found in Zurich and Stuttgart, where a traveler from the suburbs needs only a single ticket to arrive in the city center and then use all transit modes within the city; the total cost is approximately half that of buying each ticket individually and most intermodal transfers are relatively seamless. How did this come about? Who is responsible for decisions that affect different agencies and political entities? What are new institutional arrangements for organizing and delivering public infrastructure and services? This is the essence of this research proposal.
This research is to conduct a comparative study of urban and regional public policy on effective inter-agency metropolitan public transport; specifically, the purpose is to identify the organizational structure that enables the many operators and modes throughout an entire metropolitan area, to be as integrated and coordinated as possible. “Metropolitan public transport” is defined as all the players involved in planning, operating, maintaining, funding, marketing and analyzing fixed-route, scheduled passenger service open to the public, and typically includes several of the following modes: metro/subway, commuter rail, light rail, trams, local buses, express buses, BRT and occasionally cable cars, funiculars and ferries. The objectives of the study are to:
1. Determine appropriate indicators to measure the effectiveness of coordinated and integrated metropolitan public transport, and develop a rating/scoring system for integrated metropolitan public transport.
2. Choose a dozen metropolitan areas and rate the public transport integration by this methodology.
3. Choose three to five of the highly rated metropolitan areas as more detailed case studies.
• For each of the selected case studies, research how transit coordination is achieved with a focus on the legal, institutional and financial mechanisms used to support and carry out said integration.
• Examine the specific structure for decision making for transit coordination in the region.
• Determine if the mechanisms and organizational structures are periodically renewed and/or evolve with time.
4. Evaluate the extent to which the organizational structure(s) and other key organizational and institutional elements identified in the cases is replicable across country lines or are dependent on country-specific laws or culture.
5. Evaluate whether any of the institutional arrangements could be applied to US cities using the San Francisco Bay Area as a case. Identify barriers to transfer of successful transit coordination models to the US and ways to overcome those barriers.
Despite increasing focus in the past decade on smart growth and transit-oriented development, metropolitan areas in the US will continue to be composed of many political jurisdictions and many transit providers. For example, in the 8 million population San Francisco Bay Area, there are three major subcenters (San Francisco, Oakland-Berkeley, and San Jose), 101 separate cities, nine counties, six regional (multi-county) transit agencies, seven countywide transit agencies and 13 city or multi-city bus agencies, plus a ferry agency. In addition, the region has been spilling over its traditional boundaries and now involves significant commutes from three additional counties as well as overlapping commute sheds and other economic activities with the 2.5 million population Sacramento metropolitan region (160 kilometers from Oakland). This emerging megaregion means that even more jurisdictions and agencies have a stake in intra and interregional transit provision.
Every so often, there is a push by politicians and policy makers in the SF Bay Area to consolidate all the transit agencies into one giant operator. However, given the size of the metropolitan area, this approach is unlikely to be feasible. Moreover, the model of a single operator has some significant drawbacks from the perspective of labor relations, resiliency, and responsiveness to localized considerations. Furthermore, the single-operator model is not the solution used by western Europe (or arguably anywhere); these metropolitan areas recognize that local transit operators know their localities best and should remain separate from, although coordinated with, regional transit. (Krauss, 2009). Instead, mechanisms for coordination through regional Public Transport Authorities (PTA) have been established.
With the growth of metropolitan areas as well as megaregions throughout the world, there will be increasing need for effective institutional arrangements for transit coordination. Thus an assessment of effective mechanisms for inter-agency coordination is especially timely, as is an assessment of the transferability of best practices across national borders.
In 2009, I was the recipient of a German Marshall Fund fellowship for which I studied transit-oriented development in Germany and Italy. One of the main conclusions of my policy brief was that the United States needed a bold new approach in order to answer the question: What comes first – high quality mass transit service or denser land uses? I wrote: “The solution? Region-wide master planning for mass transit networks without regard to political boundaries. Just as in 1956, when the federal government committed to funding the Interstate Highway System, the United States needs a similar visionary commitment to plan, construct, and operate efficient, affordable mass transit systems in every urban area [in order to be able to] traverse the metropolitan area via one or more mass transit modes without regard to artificial boundaries.” (DeRobertis, 2010).
In the absence of such a national initiative to spend billions of dollars to plan and fund region-wide mass transit networks, I believe there is still much that can be done to coordinate transit within a metropolitan area. As part of the aforementioned fellowship, I met with representatives of Stuttgart Strassen-bahnen (SSB) and Agenzia Mobilita’ Metropolitana di Torino (AMMT) and learned about the Public Transport Authorities of Stuttgart and Torino. I would now like to pick up where my fellowship left off and study how to optimize metropolitan public transit coordination.
The State of the Art in the Field
Although there has been some research on public transit organizational theory and policy, much of it is over 15 – 20 years old, and the definition of organization varies from study to study. Vuchic (2005) addresses integration of transit services provided by different operators: “the three obstacles to achieving full integration of the multiple transit services are historic, political/legal and organizational”. The first PTA to provide coordinated, integrated metropolitan public transport was in Hamburg Germany, called a “verkehrsverbund” (Vuchic, 2005). Cervero (1998) wrote that a “verkehrsverbund is the ideal organizational approach for providing integrated transit service”. The concept quickly spread to other cities in Germany then western Europe as well as South Africa (Raboroko and Whitehead, 2009) and Brazil (Peixoto, 2009). Indeed there is now an Association of European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA) which was formed in 1998 to serve as a “venue for exchange of information and best practices” (EMTA 2008). It currently has 30 members and has several publications; EMTA will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource for this research.
Joachim Krauss’ power point presentation (Krauss 2009) explains the Greater Stuttgart Region’s model. The premise is that public transit in metropolitan areas needs three levels: 1) Public Agencies, 2) the Transport Coordinator (PTA), and 3) the Operators. The boundaries between the three levels are drawn differently in every PTA and even within PTA’s. The Greater Stuttgart Region’s PTA, Verkehrs-und Tarifverbund Stuttgart (VVS), coordinates five counties, 179 municipalities and 40+ operators in terms of fare coordination, collection and distribution, schedule coordination and conceptual planning. Half of the Board are representatives of political jurisdictions and half represent transit operators.
In October 2011, the Florence School of Regulation held the First European Urban Transport Regulation Forum on “Role, Functions and Status of Transport Authorities” which I attended. Pedro Abrantes’ presentation explained England’s system of “Passenger Transport Executives” which “provide, plan, procure and promote passenger transport in the six largest English conurbations outside London.” (Abrantes 2011).
Eugene Jud described the excellent transit setting of the metropolitan area of Zurich and strongly recommended it as a case study, and recommended Nash 2001 for further reading (Jud 2011). Cervero (1998) reported Zurich has twice as many public transit trips per capita as London, and its PTA, created in 1990, has been “absolutely indispensable in coordinating tariffs and service”.
Veeneman’s (2002) dissertation studied the organization of metropolitan public transport from an interdisciplinary perspective. He analyzed four cases studies of PTA’s from various perspectives within five disciplines. He identified many performance indicators, some of which may be useful for my research.
Although Vuchic and others indicate that PTA’s are the key to integrated and coordinated transit by multiple transit providers within a metropolitan area, I have found little in the academic or technical literature that describes any performance indicators for the effectiveness of said integration and coordination of public transit. Nor have I seen a comparative analysis of the governance structure of PTA’s or an assessment of which organizational structures might work best in certain regulatory or political environments.
Hypothesis and Methodology
Hypothesis: A metropolitan area Public Transport Authority with a Board of Directors composed of representatives of both small and large operators and the political jurisdictions is the key to providing effective coordinated interagency public transit across large metropolitan regions including megaregions. The organizational structure of the authority must be able to adjust periodically to changes in the size and shape of the region. Lessons learned from studying successful transit authorities in the EU may be applied to improve transit performance in large regions in the US such as the San Francisco Bay Area.
I propose to use qualitative research methodologies primarily using empirical research of comparative case studies. I would conduct informal interviews with staff as well as conduct selected surveys as needed. A combination of exploratory, descriptive, explanatory, and evaluative qualitative methods would be developed in conjunction with research advisors and by consulting standard text books such as Denzin & Lincoln, 2003.
To study this hypothesis, I will first need to answer two related questions in order to identify the case study locations:
1. What Measures of Effectiveness (MOE’s) have been or could be developed to measure effective coordination and integration of public transit service in a multi-operator multi-jurisdictional metropolitan area? Is there an industry standard? Do individual countries have any MOE’s? If not, then I would develop MOE’s using qualitative methods such as interviews with transit authority staff for the key roles of an PTA. I may survey public transportation users, if appropriate.

2. Which multi-jurisdictional multi-operator metropolitan areas have effective coordinated public transit service, as defined in No. 1?

Then three to five case studies would be chosen from those metropolitan areas which meet the effectiveness criteria described above. I would conduct a comparative analysis of these case studies, determining the nature of the mechanism, most probably a PTA, that coordinates interagency public transit. Through interviews, observations, and review of archival documents, I would research how the PTA was created and the legal and other obstacles in its creation. How did each PTA come to exist and become responsible for binding decisions across operating agencies and political entities? When the PTA was formed, who were the “winners” and who were the “losers” of the inevitable power struggle? How did the “losers” get on board? Next, I would compare and contrast the case study PTA’s with respect to the composition of their Boards, their duties and powers, and the pertinent national state or regional laws. Lastly, I would assess these organizational structures for applicability to other countries and to the United States.

Short Bibliography.
Michael Cabanatuan, Chronicle Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle, “Transit Agencies Urged to Coordinate Service”, October 27, 2011.
Abrantes, Pedro, 2011, Presentation at the FSR First European Forum on Urban Passenger Transport, October 14, 2011. Transport/Policy_events/Workhops/20111/1stEUrbanTRF.
Cervero, Robert, The Transit Metropolis, Island Press, 1998.
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2003). Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Denzin N.K. & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
DeRobertis, Michelle, “Land Development and Transportation Policies for Transit-Oriented Development in Germany and Italy – Five Case Studies”, 2010.
Ebol, Laura and Gabriella Mazzulla “A methodology for evaluating transit service quality based on subjective and objective measures from the passengers point of view” , Department of Land Use Planning, University of Calabria, Italy, January 2011 – cor1
EMTA, Association of European Metropolitan Transport Authorities, Directory 2008,
Florida, Richard, Tim Gulden and Charlotta Mellander, The Rise of the Mega-Region, University of Toronto, October 2007, at
Gottman, Jean (1961). Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. New York: Twentieth Century Fund.
Jud, Eugene, Lecturer, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, interview, December 30, 2011.
Krauss, Joachim, powerpoint presentation and interview, staff member of the Board office, SSB, Stuttgart, 2009.
Nash, Andrew, Zurich’s Transit Priority System, Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose, MTI 01-13, FHWA/CA/RM-2000/09, October 2001
Peixoto, Dilson, “The Greater Recife (Brazil) Transport Consortium: The Consolidation of a Transport Authority” Public Transport International Volume 58, Issue 6, UITP 2009
International Association of Public Transport, (UITP) “UITP Position Paper -Developing Public Transport in Low Density Areas through Appropriate Fare Systems” May 2005
Raboroko, Eze and Melissa Whitehead, “Institutional Parameters for Achieving Sustainable Public Transport Integration: The Gauteng Transport Management Authority, South Africa”; Public Transport International Volume 58, Issue 6, UITP 2009
Regional Plan Association (2006). America 2050: A Prospectus. New York, NY: Regional Plan Association.
Taylor, Peter J. and Kathy Pain (2006) , Polycentric Mega-city Regions: Exploratory Research from Western Europe, at
Veeneman, Wijnand. “Mind the Gap – Bridging theories and practice for the organization of metropolitan public transport”; TU Delft University, PhD dissertation, 2002
Vuchic, Vukan, Urban Transit-Operations, Planning, and Economics, John Wiley & Sons Inc. , 2005.

milano and parking and public transit

Milano’s new PGT (Piano Governo di Territoriale) is directly addressing the problem  of over stringent parking requirements by assigning all areas of the city into one of four categories based on the transportation infrastructure. If the infrastructure changes, then the category changes. These categories each have different allowable land use densities and different parking requirements. The most accessible category, the central city, has the highest allowable densities and in fact has density minimums that must be met. It also has the lowest parking requirements and in fact has a maximum allowable parking rate. The outermost land uses have maximum allowable densities and are required to provide the most parking spaces. As shown in the figure, the entire central core of Milano, a diameter of approximately X__ kilometer is Zone 1. Zone 2 is the area bounded by a second concentric circle and within 400 meters of a metro station. Zone 3 is all areas outside this second circle and within 400 meters of a metro or train station. Zone 4 is all the remaining areas of the city.

Funiculare- Como

Lago Como also has a funicolare
Connects the town of Lago Como to the town of Bruanate
Began in 1894-
Climbs from 200 meters to 600 meters in 7 minutes, 55% grade
Currently managed by the ATM of Milan,  (not sure how long AMT has managed it)

There are two vehicles and one track, one goes up while one goes down,

they pass each other where the tracks widen out just like Genova, also just like Genova, there is no driver; I was told it’s been automated for 20 years.
The cars had 24 seats,  and the unique /interesting aspect was the slanted loading; off of stairs, essentially, the vehicle was not level.
Price 4.5 E round trip  for me, there is probably a resident passlike there was in Genova.

como to brunante

Como funicular Car

GMF findings

Go to the GMF website for my Policy Brief


A power point of the findings is below

Presentation VTA-DEC09pdfreduced

Hamburg Public Transit; Hochbahn and HVV

The transit company in Hamburg is called the Hochbahn, but like everywhere else I have been, the tickets and fares are integrated among all the modes  and  with all the other public transit companies in the metropolitan area.  So it does not matter which modes or service you actually ride, it only matters how far you are go.  There are fare zones, and the metro fares for instance, are distance based like BART, but the single ticket will also get you onto the local bus or ferry  for that trip.

The coordination is done by Hamburger Verkehrsverbund (HVV) which translates into English as the Hamburg Transport Association, which has had Integrated Tickets since 1965: “That’s when we became the world’s very first integrated public transport association. One ticket, one timetable: use any HVV public transport service you like.”

The total public transport network consists of buses in the many (dozens?) of communities in three states  that belong to HVV; the Schnellbahn rapid transit rail services (U-bahn, S-bahn und A-Bahn); the  Regional Rail (R-Bahn), and the five ferries around the  Hamburg harbour and on the River Elbe.  Note that the City of Hamburg is also a state- one  of the 16 states in Germany. So HVV includes the entire city- state of Hamburg plus neighboring communities from two adjacent states.

People/ Customer friendly features
• On weekends the rapid transit U-Bahn and S-Bahn rail services run every 20 minutes all through the night within Hamburg.
• 7 days a week there are night buses that run after the rapid transit shuts down
• After 7 PM on some bus lines, specially marked buses, drivers can stop in between official stops to discharge passengers
• Real time “next bus” and “next three buses”
• Dogs allowed oboard,  on a leash, free
• Bikes allowed free with certain time restrictions which vary  depending on bus, u- bahn or s-bahn
• Bikes allowed at all times on regional trains for a Euro 3.50 a day fee
• Bikes allowed at all times for free on 4 of 5 ferries
• Tickets available from machine as well as Bus drivers who sell single tickets and day tickets, (but not the weekly /monthly /annual passes)
• After 9 am, discounted fare for all
• Any time, up to three kids under age 14 travel free with one adult
• After 9 am:  Group ticket  for 5 people of any age
• Special pass prices for children /seniors and apprentice/college students

Steep and Forested Stuttgart

“Old” Stuttgart is located in the valley of the Neckar River  (Flüss Neckar) surrounded by steep hills up to 300 meters high. On many of these hilltops and other valleys were independent villages with their own town centers.  Stuttgart grew from a city of almost 300,000 to over 500,000 in the 1920’s mainly by  annexing many of these surrounding villages.  At late as 1942, they incorporated the village of Möhringen into their city. (The words annex and incorporate are used descriptively  and do not  necessarily have the  same legal meaning as used in the United States; these villages may or may not have been cities in their own right). The map shown below, labelled by others as “Stuttgart’s suburbs”  is really a map of Stuttgart’s neighborhoods, many of which were these former villages. Gerlingen on the west is outside the city limits and is one of the many separate cities or suburbs that surround the city.

Given the terrain of mountainous forests and valleys, the results is that 40 % of Stuttgart’s current land area of 207 square kilometers is protected forest. As can be seen in Figure 2, these forests are located throughout the city, not merely on the perimeter or the far east or west. Historically, these forests were considered too steep for building and now, they are mostly owned by the state  of Baden-Württemberg or the City.  The state not only owns the forest land, they also manage and harvest the timber themselves, bringing in revenue to the state.  Decades if not centuries of forest management in Germany could and probably has filled the pages of several research papers.

In addition, 10% of the land area is agriculture; this land use is  also considered essential for many reasons, not the least of which is climate; the winds from the mountains need the corridors provided by the agricultural  lands to cool the city in the summertime. Retaining agriculture designation was aided if not enforced by national legislation in the 1960’s. Again, this crucial practice will be left for another research paper.  Despite the industrial growth spurred by the invention of the automobile in the late 1800’s  simultaneously in both Bad Cannstatt, (formerly a village and now a neighborhood of Stuttgart)  and nearby Mannheim, and the resulting development pressures, Stuttgart retained both of these types of crucial “Open Space” that make Stuttgart a very green and visually attractive city.

Stuttgart suburbs

There are a few indications of the terrain when you look at the public transit system:

  1. Typical slope for the Light Rail is as high as 7 %, and one line is even steeper,  8.5%.
  2. There are several tunnels for the light rail trains, which flatter cities don’t have to fund.
  3. There is one cog rail line, with a trailer for bikes.
  4. There is one cable car line, which serves a cemetery.

EU Rules on Environmental Quality, Cars and other things

EU Rules are running the show in a lot of ways.

1. EU is encouraging all bigger cities to encourage clean transportation and public transportation and thus many cities in Italy (including Torino as of 2009) now have a Bike Office in their city government. If a country does not follow EU’s rules, (for lack of a better word), then  the UE can fine the country; in fact for certain rules  if a country fails to fulfil its obligations, the UE can put a  judgement on  the country;   the following link contains examples of judgements on various topics such as endangered species, hazardous waste :

2.  Italian  cities’  bike share and car share programs are funded through their regione’s environment department. I  suspect but have not confirmed this is also due to an EU policy or rule to improve air quality and increase sustainable transportation modes.

3. I already posted about the rules on public transportation companies and competitive bidding  and will be updating that as I find out more at:

4.  As of September 2009, all new cars  in Europe, (not only “Made in Europe” ) must have a rating of  Euro 5 – the cleanest rating , i.e.  they must be methane, LPG or cleaner diesel, and cleaner gasoline-powered cars.  Euro5 cars have strict emission standards  for diesel and LPG; methane and gasoline, and stricter standards, Euro -6, kick in in 2014.  Social consciousness  of clean cars is already apparent: 30% of new cars sold in Italy in the last 6 months have been methane-powered.

The rules are here:

In short it says :  “Member States must refuse the approval, registration, sale and introduction of vehicles that do not comply with these emission limits. An additional delay of one year is allowed for goods transport vehicles and vehicles designed to fulfil specific social needs (category N1, classes II and III, and category N2). Time frame:

  • the Euro 5 standard will come into force on 1 September 2009 for the approval of vehicles, and from 1 January 2011 for the registration and sale of new types of cars;


Euro 5 standard

Emissions from diesel vehicles:

  • carbon monoxide: 500 mg/km;
  • particulates: 5 mg/km (80% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • nitrogen oxides (NOx): 180 mg/km (20% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • combined emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides: 230 mg/km.

Emissions from petrol vehicles or those running on natural gas or LPG:

  • carbon monoxide: 1 000 mg/km;
  • non-methane hydrocarbons: 68 mg/km;
  • total hydrocarbons: 100 mg/km;
  • nitrogen oxides (NOx): 60 mg/km (25% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • particulates (solely for lean burn direct-injection petrol vehicles): 5 mg/km (introduction of a limit that did not exist for the Euro 4 standard).

These car ratings can affect other aspects of your life.  For example Torino uses them determine whether you can drive your car into the center city.  Torino has two levels of ZTL Traffic Limited Zones, sort of like congestion pricing but without the pricing: you cannot buy your way in.  From 8 am to 7 pm only cars. motorcycles and scooters rated 2, 3, 4, or 5 can drive into the city, the oldest and dirtiest rated 0 and 1 may not enter.  In the inner center city no one except residents can enter between 7 a.m  and 10:30 am.. Those are called, respectively the ZTL ZTL “>ZTL “>Ambiente and the ZTL normale. Beginning in 2010 they will combine these two zones into one  the bigger zone.

4.  Not really an EU issue,   but  FYI: all the autostrade in Italy are built privately under authorization from the state i.e. country and then the company charges tolls to recoup their costs. Thus there are no “freeways ” in Italy, (I didn’t know that and wouldn’t because I have never been on an autostrade, io prendo il treno.)  (There goes one argument for funding bikeways 🙂 but taxes still pay for all the other streets and to subsidize public transit.)  Typically, (at least it is true in Torino) on the ring (or tangential) road there is no toll,  in order  to encourage people to use them instead of driving through town.